Suzanne Tobias

Shocking news: Parenting teens is pretty cool

From left: Jack, Suzanne and Hannah Tobias.
From left: Jack, Suzanne and Hannah Tobias. Courtesy photo

When my children were babies and I was exhausted, people told me to savor the moment.

Enjoy it now, they’d say knowingly. Because just wait. Those adorable little infants turn into toddlers and then grade-schoolers and then petulant teenagers. And oh boy, they said. Then it’s over.

“Teenagers,” they’d say, rolling their eyes. They’re the worst.

They grumble, and they stink. They’re horrible to be around. They loathe you. They loathe the world.

It’s nature, an acquaintance told me once. They’re insufferable so you’ll hate them enough to kick them out.

I envisioned some warped version of the circle-of-life scene from “The Lion King,” with Sarabi drop-kicking poor Simba out into the veldt.

Just wait.

That was years ago. My children aren’t children anymore — Hannah is 19, Jack nearly 17 — and I have something shocking to profess:

Teenagers are pretty cool.

Pick your jaws up off the floor. I know it’s hard to fathom, what with all the negative press adolescents have been getting these past hundred years or so, particularly from parents.

But I’m here to tell you, parenting teenagers is way better than advertised.

Maybe I’m weird, but when I hold a tiny baby — as I did my friends’ newborn son recently — I don’t think, “Gosh, I wish my kids were this little again.” I think, “Gosh, he’s adorable. I’m so happy he’s yours.”

I kind of prefer my nearly grown humans, who are smart and funny and snarky and cynical. I even like them in groups, all loud and gangly and fighting over video games in the basement.

They crack jokes that make me laugh out loud. They pay attention to politics, ask questions and debate their points.

It’s true they can make you crazy sometimes. But they can also make dinner, and that is glorious.

Hannah texts from the grocery store these days, asking if I need anything. Jack can troubleshoot pretty much any computer problem.

Both of them work part-time jobs and occasionally treat me to a milkshake or an iced coffee. Not exactly payback for the thousands we’ve spent to feed, clothe and shelter them over the years, but it’s the thought that counts.

In the car recently, Jack asked me to add Starburst jellybeans to the shopping list. I didn’t even know Starburst made jellybeans, I told him.

“They do,” he said. A friend gave him some recently, and they’re better than any jellybeans he’d ever had.

When did my children start having lives of their own, I thought, full of mysterious and life-changing candy? It hits me like that every now and then, the vision of them out discovering the world, reporting back only the merest hints of their adventures.

I bought the jellybeans, opened the bag and poured out a handful — sweet, juicy and delicious.

I savored the moment.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias